Times 26,831: The Italian Job

That’s Job as in “tribulations of”, by the way: I should NOT have attempted to stay up and do this one at 1 a.m., after a queasy night of wine and paracetamol. But you can’t let being ill stop you celebrating when one of our artists just won the Mercury Music Prize (congrats Sampha!) and another is just about to have both their and 4AD’s first UK number one album (well done The National!). Anyway I toiled miserably through this ingeniously clued puzzle with its brilliant marriages of wordplay and surface before crawling home with a miserable sub-800 Club score. Sorry XwdSnitch for massively skewing the numbers on this one, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been *that* hard if I’d just waited until morning…

It was the two Italianate clues what done me in, if I can point a finger: 10ac was very unknown so, although ROSSO seemed like a definite good bet, I wasn’t getting very far with the first part. And then 22dn is a brilliant example of the great Magoo’s number one piece of advice, don’t allow yourself to get stuck on an idea, keep on re-examining. I got so obsessed with the idea that P_E_O must be an unknown Italian detective that I just wouldn’t let myself think, hang on, perhaps there’s a *reason* you can’t think of any really famous Italian detectives? If I’d given up that tack a bit earlier and considered other ways that the clue could possibly break down, things would have gone much better for me, I reckon.

Loads of really well-constructed clues, as I said, with very few that aren’t doing something a bit cleverer or more deceptive than usual. I’ll give my COD to 9ac because I really like the definition being “element one” plus the anagram indicator being not quite where you might expect it. You wouldn’t think a clue involving an anagram of H GONE DRY for an element would give an experienced solver much bother in the normal run of things, but I think this setter may be some kind of evil genius. Thanks to the individual concerned for a really traumatic ordeal – exactly how I like to start my weekends!


1 An American possessing endless support you can count on? (6)
ABACUS – A US [an | American] “possessing” BAC{k} [“endless” support]

5 Going on excursion? One can, in posh car (8)
JAUNTING – UN TIN [one | can], in JAG [posh car]

9 Element one sprayed initially has gone dry (8)
HYDROGEN – (H{as} GONE DRY*) [“sprayed”]

10 Milk one loved before turning red? (6)
EXTORT – EX [one loved before] + reversed TROT [“turning” red]

11 Leaves lounge, roughly grabbing sailor (5,5)
LOLLO ROSSO – LOLL [lounge] + OR SO [roughly] “grabbing” O.S. [sailor]

13 Word in carol’s original verse is missing (4)
NOEL – NO{v}EL [original V (verse) “is missing”]

14 Notion one cherished briefly (4)
IDEA – I [one] + DEA{r} [cherished, “briefly”]

15 Dec eighth: roughly about time to join union (3,7)
GET HITCHED – (DEC EIGHTH*) [“roughly”] about T [time]

18 An alternative to the boat, perhaps, that brings riches? (5,5)
GRAVY TRAIN – humorous cryptic definition playing on GRAVY BOAT suggesting a type of transport

20 Something in the middle to cling to, tough (4)
THUG – {some}T{hing} + HUG [cling to]

21 Spot incomplete list of requirements (4)
SPEC – SPEC{k} [spot, “incomplete”]

23 Plateful demolished by army officer very fast (2,4,4)
AT FULL PELT – (PLATEFUL*) [“demolished”] by LT [army officer]

25 For greeting, bow to each side (6)
BEHIND – HI [greeting], BEND [bow] “to each side”

26 Huge college studies spoken of (4-4)
KING-SIZE – KINGS [college] + homophone of EYES [studies “spoken of”]

28 More prominent surrounds by Oriental tree (3,5)
BOX ELDER – BOLDER [more prominent] surrounds X E [by | Oriental]

29 Weak women’s sobbing has moved heart (6)
WATERY – W [women] has TE{<-A}RY [sobbing, with “moved heart”]


2 Child prodigy’s heard to raise doubt (3,6)
BOY WONDER – homophone of BUOY [“heard” to raise] + WONDER [doubt]

3 Part of plant climbing wall, or occasionally, fences (7)
COROLLA – hidden reversed [“climbing” … “fences”] in {w}ALL OR OC{casionally}

4 Drop jaw when upset (3)
SAG – GAS reversed [jaw “when upset”]

5 German OK with students being two-faced (5)
JANUS – JA [German OK] + N.U.S. [students]. The old Roman god with two faces looking forwards and backwards into the New and Old years.

6 Choice of dishes turned one on — a lot re-served cold (11)
UNEMOTIONAL – MENU reversed [choice of dishes “turned”] + (I ON A LOT*) [“re-served”]

7 Huge current stopping at sea intact (7)
TITANIC – I [current] “stopping” (INTACT*) [“at sea”]

8 Shark appearing in harbour (5)
NURSE – double def

12 Permission given, favouring a particular side (5-6)
RIGHT-HANDED – RIGHT HANDED [permission | given]

16 What precedes do: a drink (3)
TEA – TE [what precedes do (the musical note)] + A

17 Goal perhaps of small boy in European competition? I’m not sure… (9)
EQUALIZER – AL [small boy] in E QUIZ [European | competition] + ER [I’m not sure…]

19 Short holiday viewed as sound, healthy preparation (7)
VACCINE – VAC [short holiday] + homophone of SEEN [viewed “as sound”]

20 Family firm providing work in printing house (7)
TYPESET – TYPE SET [family | firm]

22 Italian sleuth leading man out of Whitechapel? (5)
PIERO – P.I. [sleuth] + ‘ERO [leading man “out of Whitechapel”, i.e. Cockneyfied]

24 Ascetic in the distance crossing Himalayan mountain (5)
FAKIR – FAR [in the distance] “crossing” K1 [Himalayan mountain]

27 Present that’s bagged up (3)
NOW – WON reversed [bagged “up”]

64 comments on “Times 26,831: The Italian Job”

  1. Well well, first up. About 35 minutes, with much agonizing, eventually worthwhile, over the Italian clues, from wordplay only. I remembered the exhortation of my childhood, ‘stop lolling about’. Not so sure about ‘un’ for one, without some indicator such as ‘heard’ or ‘abroad’. COD to GRAVY TRAIN, for its surface. Thanks v and setter.

    Edited at 2017-09-15 08:50 am (UTC)

    1. How about if you read it as the definition being “going” with “un” being “on excursion, one”? That’s how I got there. But I admit that’s rather torturous.

      Edited at 2017-09-15 09:03 am (UTC)

      1. Stuff like “the little ‘uns” isn’t that controversial is it? I don’t think we’re talking about a French “one” here.
        1. It wouldn’t have been controversial if I’d thought of it!

          Edited at 2017-09-15 09:20 am (UTC)

  2. Tricky puzzle. Three quarters went in quickly but then I was walking in treacle. Finished in 50 minutes but needed checkers for LOLLO ROSSO. I never like red lettuce. Couldn’t parse PIERO, not seeing PI for private investigator. The Whitechapel connection was a neat false trail given its Jack the Ripper connections. COD EQUALIZER, not that Bolton have scored one so far this season.They haven’t gone ahead either. Thank you V and setter.
  3. 24:35 . I spotted the pangram when it was too late to be of any use and stared for ages at the SPEC/PIERO crossing. Some fine clues here so thanks setter and to v for letting me get near his time.
    1. Oh, yes, I also wasted a couple of minutes going through the entire alphabet to find there was nothing left to help me. I’m starting to think that spotting the pangram is more trouble than it’s worth.
  4. The National’s new album dropped through my letterbox at the weekend, V. Glad I could help 😀

    Unfortunately I was also stove in by the two Italian answers. I had both LOLLO and ROSSO in my head at various points, but as I couldn’t get “roughly” out of my head as an anagram indicator and as “sailor” looked like such good fodder for the crossers…

    Also had no idea whatever that the word PIERO existed, let alone what it meant. There I wasn’t helped by not having heard of a BOX ELDER, nor being able to justify BEHIND no matter how many times I thought of it.

    Quite glad I just gave up at the end of my hour, rather than pressing on, as I’m fairly sure I’d not have got there in the end. Bah.

  5. Around 19 minutes for everything but the leaves, and I could have stared at that all day without getting anywhere. Tough wordplay for something like that. LOLLO ROSSO was apparently the title of The High Llamas’ 1998 remix EP.

    Some great stuff but the aforesaid lollo rosso left me with a “Whatever” feeling. Not that it matters — according to today’s Guardian Dennis Rodman is all that stands between us and nuclear annihilation. I must stop reading the Guardian.

    1. Of course, The High Llamas. I remember them well, S, ever since I wikied them 2 minutes ago. They must be a bit like giraffes without humps. Or spots. I guess they’d eat red leaves though.
  6. 45 mins with croissant and lime marmalade. And the last 15 all spent on the excellent SW combo: 22dn, 25ac and 28ac (first bit).

    COD to 25ac – so simple when you spot which bit is the definition and summon up a word for bow (which took me too long). But prior to the PDM, baffling. Plus a meaningful, believable, grammatical surface. Well played.
    I liked lots, but mostly: Hydrogen, Milk, the Leaves, Noel, Kings eyes, Boy wonder.
    Gobsmacked that Lollo Rosso has held people up.
    Thanks brilliant setter and V.

    1. I can’t quite put my finger on it, myrtilus, but something about your posts has led me to believe that foodie matters loom perhaps larger than average in your consciousness…
        1. Clearly zeitgeists are not geists of the invisible or vampiric kind, if one is able to reflect them.
      1. I avidly read what he’s had for breakfast for new words that might come up in the crossword. A bit miffed he didn’t indulge in a lollo rosso preserve – or tea – recently.
  7. About 28 minutes. Dear old Pareto struck again with 20% of the puzzle taking 80% of the time, including an age on the PIERO/BEHIND pairing until I finally separated sleuth from Italian.
    The leaves have stuck in my mind from an old tv ad for a well known cream cheese which had the line ‘a little lollo rosso for that continental touch’ . The junk that fills our brains!
  8. 21:19. I saw on the leaderboard that this was only slightly slower than our speed-solving blogger, and thought to myself ‘lawks, he must have been absolutely stinko’*.
    I found this very hard, but had a lot of fun grappling with it. LOLLO ROSSO was actually an easy biff for me: my biggest problems came in the SE with THUG/TYPESET/WATERY and NE with EXTORT/NURSE/NOEL. Lots of clues (including PIERO for the same reasons as v) where I took a firm grasp of the wrong end of the stick, and several where for a long time I couldn’t see an end of the stick to grasp.
    Cracking stuff. Thanks to verlaine, and congratulations on the success of your young protégé.

    *actual thoughts edited in the interests of decency

    Edited at 2017-09-15 08:58 am (UTC)

  9. I was vaguely aware of the High Llamas but only now do I see that they were formed from the ashes of Microdisney, who I know slightly better. Good band names there.
    1. I was a bit surprised lollo rosso wasn’t a write-in for you on this basis. And yes, excellent band names. I also knew Microdisney but it seems the High Llamas are too avant garde even for the coolest among us 🙂
      1. I saw them live at the Louisiana in Bristol in 2007. Unfortunately I was taken along by a girl who was a much bigger fan, otherwise perhaps I’d have heard of the EP…
  10. That SW corner pushed me over the half-hour, what with failing to see the definition in 25ac, and trying to think of Inspector Montalbano’s first name [actually Salvo] for 22dn. (The pangram wasn’t going to help as I already had it all.) No problem with the lettuce, as I often see (and decide against) it when buying salad.
    1. I was wondering about Montalbano because a friend just lent me the season one DVDs. I was also fruitlessly trying to remember William of Baskerville from The Name of the Rose, and Aurelio Zen, while attempting to rid my mind of the Red Dwarf line “the man with the dirty mac who discovered America…”
  11. Tough test this, what with the fancy lettuce and the clever clueing. I didn’t help myself by trying to convince myself that a friar could be ascetic, despite the evidence of Friar Tuck, and my quickish cottoning onto the lift-and-separation at 22d was somewhat offset by thinking for too long that Pieri was the Italian Peter. What good is all that sport, I ask myself, when you don’t know your Alessandro Del Piero from your elbo?

    Edited at 2017-09-15 09:27 am (UTC)

    1. As a cinephile I think I would have had no trouble with PIERPAOLO but for some reason PIERO is much harder!
  12. ….. or 30 minutes and a long time staring at P_E_O.
    I put in PIERO un-parsed with no great hope. I knew the expensive garnish that I normally push to the side of my plate but didn’t realise that it was named after Gina Lollobrigida.
  13. Aside from the unknown lettuce, I got stranded in the SW, until the pangram left me with just a V to find, which gave me the excellent GRAVY TRAIN. In the end the 22d/25a crossers defeated me, and I had to come here with my tail between my legs. All in all, an excellent Friday work-out.
  14. 38 minutes would have seemed pretty good for this tricky puzzle but unfortunately at that juncture I was still lacking the two unchecked letters in 22dn, and after a lot more time thinking about the possibilities I ended up with one of them incorrect. How I’ve managed to avoid the Italian name PIERO all my life I really don’t know, but if I ever came across it it didn’t register in my brain. I got the ‘ERO bit eventually but thought only of PE for sleuth, as in Private Eye. Before that I managed to convince myself that the last letter needed to complete a pangram was an M (carelessly overlooking the one already at 6dn) and toyed with the idea of an Italian name to fit P?EMO for a while. Very enjoyable other than that.

    Edited at 2017-09-15 09:44 am (UTC)

    1. Never heard the name Piero, and I’ve lived more than a year in Italy. Quite a few Pietros (Pietri?) which in my mind mitigated against Piero being a name, even having met the odd Giampiero and known of Pierpaolo Passolini.
      Alessandro Del Piero – Alejet/Il Pinturicchio – former Italy and Juve #10 the only Piero I knew.
      Also not being UKish didn’t know Whitechapel was Cockney, vaguely thought it was south London on the Old Kent Road, from Monopoly.
      Decidedly tricky crossword, same problems as others.
        1. You sound like a character from Dance to the Music of Time! Volume 4 has just arrived from Amazon – can’t wait to get into it (well, will finish Daniel Deronda first) after having taken the others out of the library.
          1. I re-read Dance every few years but I’ve never been tempted to have another go at Daniel Deronda – too much mysticism for me. Did you see the tv version of Dance? I thought it was very good indeed with Simon Russell Beale as Widmerpool and a terrific Miranda Richardson as the scary Pamela. It even made the final (weakest) book work.
        2. What “percentage complete” did you escape from your education at, can you hazard a guess? Relatedly, I really hate it when a loading bar on one’s computer gets stuck at 99%.
        3. This is where I got the name PIERO from too, although no-one ever tried to finish me so I’m not sure how I knew about him.
      1. Thanks for this, Isla, and I’m heartened to know that I am not alone in not knowing Piero. It doesn’t help with my shame at not thinking of PI for ‘sleuth’ though!
  15. Yikes – glad I was not the only one – about 9 minutes for everything but LOLLO ROSSO and PIERO and another 12 minutes for the last two. Kept wondering if there was an Italian detective unit called the PIEZO I’ve been missing all these years.
  16. I assume that’s where lolly and lettuce, as in money, come from although I like Sawbill’s idea that it was named for Gina (La Lollo). Glad to see I was in good company because this felt like a very sluggish 26.42. Yes the GRAVY TRAIN was excellent.
    1. I googled …. 1980s: Italian, from lollo ‘curly-leafed lettuce’ (apparently from La Lollo, nickname of the Italian actress Gina Lollobrigida, with reference to her short, tousled hairstyle) + rosso ‘red’.
  17. Having been in Italy for long periods it was 11ac LOLLO ROSSO (I thought it might be JOLLY ROGER but 5dn JANUS denied that) and 22dn PIERO.

    I never saw behind 25ac BEHIND.

    28ac BOX ELDER was my LOI. FOI 21dn BOY WONDER.


    WOD Fridayitis and a DNFF!

    Mood Meldrew!

    Edited at 2017-09-15 11:14 am (UTC)

  18. About 45mins with two blanks (NURSE and NOEL, should’ve persevered with those two), a mis-biffed ‘premo’ (would never have got that one), and a couple of biffs that went in ok (WATERY, EQUALIZER). Great puzzle, with some satisfying pdms. Thanks for sorting it all after your grand night out, V!


  19. Didn’t complete the SW, but 4 out of 5 this week will do for me. V seems to like The National – maybe I’ll bump into him when they play Hammersmith soon? If you like rock music give them a go. Thanks setter as this is state of the art.
  20. Beaten today by the crossing of PIERO and BEHIND. No dice for me there. Somehow constructed the Italian leaves from wordplay and crossers, but hadn’t heard of it previously. No easy puzzle, this. Regards.
  21. After a week of moderately easy Jobs I was not alone in expecting a toughie, but I found this a bit like the overstated weather forecasts since Mr Fish underestimated the hurricane; for me, the predicted storm didn’t arrive. I finished this in my usual average time of 20 minutes without pain or aids, although PIERO was guessed not parsed.
    GRAVY TRAIN was superb, even Mrs K was amused.
  22. And so it came to pass…. I hacked my way through this rather tough offering, until I became becalmed in the SW with 22d/25a proving highly resistant to my efforts. I had worked out the PI bit and had the O at the end, and was even at the stage of trying to think of a cockney bloke ending in E, but just couldn’t get there, so I looked it up. I’d heard of Pietro but not Piero. Having cheated on that one, I then managed to parse 25a and submitted at 1:5:16, only to find I’d misread the reverse hidden at 3d and entered CORALLA. Sufferin’ succotash!!! I managed to derive the unknown lettuce and tree from wordplay. Well played setter and thanks for the blog V. Hope the hangover is subsiding.

    Edited at 2017-09-15 01:57 pm (UTC)

  23. Nothing much to add. I found this steady solving, just taking a bit longer than others this week, until I got held up on the last three or four remaining and took a little break. PIERO was one of my last, but I wrote it in before the penny dropped that Whitechapel is on the East End. It was hard to see the parsing of WATERY; I’ve always found the xword device of using a possessive that way a bit fishy (as if the apostrophe-s abbreviates “has,”which it doesn’t). LOI was LOLLO ROSSO, but it had to be ROSSO and I was pretty sure it had to start with LOLL, so what was I waiting for? (Answer: O, i.e., nothing!) Still, I checked online before writing it in. By the way, this term is unknown to both the Crossword Solver and Chambers Word Wizard.

    Edited at 2017-09-15 05:07 pm (UTC)

  24. I still can’t really see UN for “one” in 5a. But the rest of the clue was clear enough so it went in. The SE corner gave me the most trouble – I just didn’t get EQUALIZER for ages in spite of the Z giveaway. Piero Della Francesca helped a lot with 22d. 40 minutes. Ann
    1. If you spot a player having a good game, you might say “he’s a good ‘un” rather than “good one”. Either that or it’s the gallic influence!
  25. 32.28, with much time spent dawdling in the SW like everyone else. Very nearly hit submit with 4d SAG uncompleted: easy to skip a 3 letter word in checking.
    Can’t remember ever seeing JAUNT as a verb, so I was a bit iffy about JAUNTING.
    For me, the main issue with PIERO is that he’s not your archetypal Italian in the same way Pedro, Paddy, Hans, or Fritz are for other nationalities: it’s just a (probably) Italian name, and not a particularly common one if the discussion above is anything to go on.
  26. Thirty-five minutes, but with an unaccountable bludner – “waters” for 26ac.

    I too spent a long time over PIERO, and in the end decided that the ERO had to be something to do with Eros, which isn’t in Whitechapel. I also convinced myself that a PIERO was an Italian detective, and completely ignored the “leading man” bit. All of which goes to confirm what someone once said: if two wrongs don’t make a right, try three.

  27. I really must start earlier in the day if I am to take in the comments, sort out unfathomed clues AND read Verlaine’s intro!
    Failed on 11ac: what I eventually put in was nonsense, just so I could say I finished but mirabile dictu, I was half right.
    Did like 13ac, 25ac and 22d. Fine clues.
    Time? Fuhgeddaboudit!

    Edited at 2017-09-15 07:59 pm (UTC)

  28. I don’t know; I found this infinitely easier than yesterday’s, where every second word had me scrabbling for google. The only obscurities here were the two Italian ones, and they weren’t that tough I thought

    Suppose I Did get lucky with box elder as it’s the name of a song by Pavement, but I was also held by a typo that took me at least a couple of minutes to spot. All up this only took me 24 minutes – same as monday’s

  29. 30 mins this morning and 16 mins this pm for this Fridayish offering. Lots to like. The Italian felt a bit random but I enjoyed working out his identity. No problem with the leaves. Slowed like others by the aforementioned 22dn, which took time to unravel despite having (Magnum) PI in early on and 25ac; very good.
  30. It wasn’t the stinker we’d been expecting, but it wasn’t a cake walk either. I never got the lettuce, and was not helped by taking forever to see SPEC (and there really aren’t very many four letter words ending in C, are there), and simultaneously thinking “Whitechapel, East Central, might just be”. COD here to behind. Thanks, Verlaine, and ditto setter.

    Edited at 2017-09-15 09:52 pm (UTC)

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